how to reduce fire pit smoke

You need to how to reduce fire pit smoke. You’ve got friends coming over for a cookout, or you’re having a party, and you want to be sure your guests have a great time.

An unexpected change in direction by the wind causes a burning sensation in your eyes and throat, and you have a face full of smoke. 

You can do several things to reduce the smoke. Excess smoke can be attributed to things like how you place logs, the way you clean your fire pit, and the type of wood you use. 

Why Is There So Much Excess Smoke?

There are three common problems that can cause a portable fire pit to start spewing excess smoke.

Problem #1: Too Much Moisture

Excessive moisture content in wood can lead to incomplete combustion, and therefore smoke. Most wet wood takes anywhere from six months to two years to dry completely. 

This can’t be your problem if you’re using a gas fire pit instead of a wooden one, but wet wood is easily the most common source of smoke in traditional fire pits.

Problem #2: Natural Contaminants

Natural contaminants may exist in the type of wood you’re using, leading to too much smoke. These contaminants include pitch and sap that may not leave the wood even if you dry it.

Problem #3: Improper Stacking

Improper stacking tends to produce excessive smoke even if you’re using seasoned firewood from a good tree variety. In other words, it doesn’t matter what type of wood you use if the firepit has a structural problem. Fortunately, this is easier to fix than getting a different piece of wood.

However, it can be hard to get a good stack in a portable fire pit. Some pits don’t have a good shape for the size of wood you’re using. If that happens, do your best.

Understanding Dry Wood

Drier is better when you want to reduce fire pit smoke. The best wood should be less than 20% moisture when you burn it, although you can go as high as 30% in a pinch.

It takes practice to identify dry wood, but you should notice that it feels lighter and more hollow, with no particular smell. This is much easier to detect on cut log chunks instead of branches.

Wet wood is anything that’s more than 30% moisture. This wood will still burn, but all of the water will cause different reactions.

Fortunately, you don’t have to guess how wet your wood is. Moisture meters are easy to use and can tell you the exact percent of water in your wood.

smoking fire pit

Can I Dry My Wood Any Faster?

Several things go into how fast your wood dries, including the type of wood, exposure to the air, and whether it gets rained on while drying.

If you look at woodpiles at houses, you’ll see that most people have roughly halved or quartered their logs before stacking them up. Some people go as far as splitting each log into sixths.

Outside of flat sides making the wood easier to stack, cutting wood this way significantly increases its surface area and gives moisture more places to escape from. That means it dries much faster and better than having a single log.

Protecting the wood from exposure is also essential. Wood that’s left outside in the rain or snow will soak up a little bit of that and take that much longer to dry. Wood that’s covered or in a shelter dries faster.

Don’t totally lock up your wood, though. It needs a constant flow of fresh air to dry properly. Stacking the wood underground will get some moisture into the air, but not nearly enough to dry it out.

If possible, try to put your wood somewhere that gets warmer airflow. This could be near some vents in your house, although sadly, this isn’t a viable strategy in every location.

Can Anything Else Cause Extra Smoke?

Yes, there are a few other factors that could affect your experience when burning seasoned firewood.

One occasional issue is having too much debris in your smokeless fire pits. Any existing ash or embers, especially if damp, could trigger a lot of excess smoke but little fire when you’re trying to light the pit. Debris is particularly problematic if you’re using green wood, but it can create extra smoke even if you’re using the best dry wood.

A similar problem to debris is insufficient kindling. Some people use forest material like tree bark, pinecones, or pine needles alongside kiln-dried firewood. These tend to smoke excessively when you first start a fire, although they’ll often burn off fairly quickly.

What Else Can I Do to Reduce Fire Pit Smoke?

There are a few things you can do to help reduce fire pit smoke.

#1: Use Lower-Smoke Woods

Most hardwoods smoke less than softer woods. They have less moisture to start with, so they dry out faster and burn better once they get going. However, you may want to use a little softwood as a firestarter.

Ash, hickory, non-sugar maple, and oak are all excellent choices for fires. Poplar and elm aren’t quite as good, so only use those as a backup.

#2: Have a Fire That Starts Quickly

One of the main factors that determine how fast your fire starts is the way you stack the wood. The log cabin style works particularly well, especially if you put the vent holes in the right direction to maximize airflow and ensure proper combustion.

Log cabin fires are also relatively stable and won’t collapse for a long time. As a bonus, this configuration has plenty of room in the middle for your tinder and kindling. That said, you will need a sufficiently long tool to get to the center of the fire, especially if it’s down in a pit.

#3: Use A Better Pit

Most people focus on the wood and the fire structure while reducing wood, but did you know you can also use better pits to reduce smoke? The technology behind newer pits is a top-lit updraft gasifier, or TLUD, which uses a double-walled structure and creative air circulation system to help catch and burn off excess smoke.

Unfortunately, better fire pits can be hard to find out in the wild, and it takes some effort to make one yourself. This is worth considering if you want a smokeless fire pit at home, though.


reduce fire pit smoke

What Causes Excess Fire Pit Smoke?

Excess fire pit smoke is typically the result of the incomplete burning of firewood due to excess moisture in the wood, normally “green” wood or older wood that has not been dry adequately.

What is Dry Wood?

We’ll get a little more into detail on what dry wood, or seasoned wood as it’s commonly called, really looks like, what smoke the least (and most), and what the fire pit industry is doing to help keep smoke to a minimum on their end.

What is Wood Smoke?

Wood smoke comes primarily from the burning of certain chemicals that are part of the natural makeup of hardwoods like oak, hickory, and ash, and softwoods like pine, fir, and spruce, to name a few.

What is Firewood seasoning?

Long story short, seasoned wood is firewood with a moisture content of at least 30% or less. The lower, the better.

How does wood burn?

The bottom line is that dry wood burns efficiently, and as a result, it doesn’t smoke a lot.

How do I know if my firewood is moisture?

Wood moisture levels can be tracked with an inexpensive handheld moisture meter which you can buy at your local hardware store.

What is the Best Wood for Fire Pit Smoke Reduction?

30% moisture is the minimally acceptable number in my book, but 20% or less is ideal, and you should find that’s at least the standard with most kiln-dried firewood available in your area. If you want to reduce fire pit smoke effectively, using suitable wood at the proper moisture level is going to give you the most bang for your buck.

What Are the Causes of Smoke in a Fire Pit?

Old and potentially damp ash, embers, and other debris that has accumulated in your fire pits from recent burns could slow the stunt the ignition of your current fire, resulting in a fire pit they not only won’t catch but will smoke a lot as you stumble around trying to figure out what to do.

What is the Best Way to Burn Pine?

Well-seasoned softwoods can work if your options are few but understand the limitations.

What fuel source do you use?

The more I’ve learned, though, the more I’ve discovered softwoods like pine can be helpful in the initial stages of a fire, especially when trying to get the primary fuel source to burn, preferably a hardwood of some type.

What is the difference between a hardened and unhardened tree sap?

The terpene in hardened tree sap, which is in high concentration in fatwood, ignites quickly, helping the rest of the fire get started.

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